Chetham's Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. The original buildings date from even earlier, when, in 1421, Thomas de la Warre, Lord of Manchester and rector of the parish church, obtained a licence from King Henry V to refound the church as a collegiate foundation. The survival of so complete a set of medieval buildings is rare, and their troubled history makes their survival all the more surprising. Finally, at the end of the English Civil War, Humphrey Chetham, a prosperous Manchester merchant, made his first overtures to purchase the College to house a school and library. Under the terms of his will, the bulk of his fortune was to be used to endow a hospital for the maintenance and education of forty poor boys, and to adapt and equip part of the building as a library for the use of scholars. Over the centuries, Chetham's has acquired a huge and diverse collection, ranging from large portfolio books to manuscript diaries, letters and deeds, to prints and paintings.

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